Hagel says critics have ‘completely distorted’ his record on Israel and Iran

President Obama’s pick to be the next Defense secretary, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), said that critics have “completely distorted” his record and that he’s looking forward to the “opportunity to set the record straight.”

Hagel gave an interview published Monday in the Lincoln Journal Star, his home-state newspaper, where he said that the negative assessment of his record from critics “took on a life of its own” while he was in “no man’s land” before Obama picked him.

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Hagel has been criticized by pro-Israel groups and Republicans for saying that the “Jewish lobby” intimidates people on Capitol Hill. Pro-Israel groups have also knocked him for failing to sign onto several policy letters supporting Israel.

Obama nominated Hagel Monday to take over at the Pentagon, saying his nomination would be "historic" and praising his independent streak.

Hagel said there is “not one shred of evidence" that he is anti-Israel. In the Senate, he said, he did not cast a single "vote that matters that hurt Israel."

"I didn't sign on to certain resolutions and letters because they were counter-productive and didn't solve a problem," Hagel said.

Hagel also defended himself against criticism that he would be lenient with Iran, saying that he supports international sanctions but not unilateral ones.

"I have not supported unilateral sanctions because when it is us alone they don't work and they just isolate the United States," Hagel said. "United Nations sanctions are working. When we just decree something, that doesn't work.

"I have said many times that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism," Hagel said.

Hagel said he is asking senators for a “fair hearing” as they consider his confirmation.

“I am very much looking forward to having a full, open, transparent hearing about my qualifications and my record,” he said. "All I look for is an opportunity to respond.”

Hagel, who is currently chairman of the Atlantic Council and a professor at Georgetown University, said that he was not looking for another job when he was approached by Obama.

“When the president asked me to consider this, of course, I said I would,” he said.